Looming heat wave draws concerns for Quebec long-term care homes
MONTREAL -- In addition to caring for the sick and dealing with province-wide staffing shortages, seniors homes in Quebec are about to deal with another challenge: a heatwave.
Even when temperatures don’t soar to extremes during the summer, long-term care homes can become very warm.
Sylvie Morin, an assistant head nurse at Sainte-Dorothée, a long-term care home in Laval, says it’s quite concerning.
“(Residents are) stuck in their apartment with no air conditioning,” Morin said. “And it’s really worrisome.”
In the Montreal area, temperatures are expected to climb over 30 degrees this week, which means it will feel like summer earlier than usual.
Morin said homes like Sainte-Dorothée where she works should be okay for residents despite the fact that they don’t have air conditioning, because measures have been put into place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But for staff who are covered in personal protective equipment, the next few days may be a challenge.
“That’s going to be the hard part, even with the masks it’s really hot now,” she said. “So, I’m not looking forward to the next few days.”
A union representing orderlies estimates only about one third of nursing homes in the province — such as Chateau Royal in Dollard-des-Ormeaux — is equipped with air conditioning.
“This is inhumane, and we intend to push it to the courts,” said Paul Brunet, a patients rights’ advocate.
Quebec has said it’s working on a plan and admits there are many challenges, especially with a heat wave coming so early in the year.
“It’s going to be more complicated this year,” said Minister of Health, Danielle McCann. “And we’re going to have to be very careful not to mix people who have COVID-19 with the people who don’t have COVID-19.”
In some homes where there is air conditioning, it’s confined to common areas, according to family members of residents from both the Vigi Dollard-des-Ormeaux and Vigi Mont-Royal homes – individual rooms don’t have that luxury.
Two years ago, a heatwave in late July killed dozens of Quebecers – many of them elderly – leaving many people hoping this summer doesn’t get too hot.